So when is it time to kiss a challenging client good-bye?
I’ve argued that there are five universal high-maintenance clients to avoid.
But we all have our own personal definitions of “challenging”.
Maybe it’s about being out of synch with your client’s goals—perhaps they’ve changed since you said “I do” (or you have).
Or you’re not feeling valued. Your client’s complaining about your fees or your work-style and they are a clear outlier in what otherwise is a high-performing “portfolio”.
Hey, it happens.
So what do you do?
I like conducting an annual review. Just do a deep dive—usually in your third or fourth quarter—on your last year:
Were you satisfied with your overall revenue growth? How did it compare to plan?
What did you learn this year that you should apply to your business and/or revenue model going forward?
What kinds of work/clients would you like to replicate?
Which if any do you want to exit—and why?
How can you exit gracefully?
What I love about this approach is it helps you and your team get through challenging situations—because you all know there WILL be a reckoning.
That’s especially important when you’re working on long-term, retainer-style work where you’ve made significant commitments.
Or a bet-the-business project that you can’t exit on a moment’s notice.
Because you generally don’t want to simply drop clients before giving it strategic thought and care.
But there are situations where you can’t wait a year.
Toxic clients ripping through your people.
Or demanding a level of attention or service you can’t reasonably deliver—and they’re not open to negotiating a compromise.
In those cases, avoiding or delaying the tough discussion serves no one.
Bite the bullet now and have the conversation that just might set you both free.
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